The Long Long Green of Writing

I’m bursting to share my happiness about two pieces of good news about writing that came my way yesterday.

In 1974 I wrote an essay called “The Motherbond” published in Women, A Journal of Liberation when my son was four years old. Today, forty-five years later, I received a thrilling email about it from the son/trustee of one of my most important writing mentors and models: “I’m Adrienne Rich’s son Pablo, and also her literary trustee. W.W. Norton is publishing a volume of selections from her prose in 2018 and I’m writing to you for permission to reprint the four paragraph passage from “The Motherbond” that Adrienne quoted in Of Woman Born.” Then yesterday, when he sent payment for the reprint rights, I laughed with uproarious pleasure to read: “Does $250. sound all right for you? It’s pretty much in line with what Wallace Stevens and Emily Dickinson will be paid, based on number of words or lines. But they’re not alive as you and I.

Also yesterday, I opened a local publication here in Ajijic Mexico where I live, to find a complete reprint of the speech I gave in the lakeshore amphitheatre for the Women’s March 2018. The speech, “A World That Works for Everybody”, included poetry by Ellen Bass, Yehuda Amichai and myself. And, it happens that just this week I received from my son the youtube of that speech, and finally figured out how to upload it onto my website, www.susasilvermarie.com

These two pieces of good news about writing leave me feeling bookended by the span of my own long and steady writing life. How in heavens name I got from there  to here in time is a mystery, but it’s easy to see from here, that writing has been the road of my life. In 1984 I enacted a Writing Commitment Ceremony with my friend Martha as my witness. The typewritten words of the signed ceremonial document recently surfaced in my papers, as follows:

This pleasure I choose
coaxing something live
into sound’s shape.
I turn to face my fears of power,
I choose the craft
because my power crouches in its grass,
the long green of writing.

I embrace what I already know,
I step truly to the virgin path.
I choose a way that’s made of words,
for my power crouches in its grass,
the long, long green of writing.

Today I give great thanks for the writing path.

photography by Susa Silvermarie

When Rains Come Early

When it rains, they stay;
children at games in the street,
lovers in each other’s arms
on the lakeshore.

When the rains come,
tin roofs and tile
become instruments Rain plays
with a practiced touch.

Light and steady to lull me;
then sudden, the rhythm
beats a djembe,
strong and staccato!

A song of wooing
whooshes to wildness,
as up and down
Rain’s volume zooms.

When the rains come,
I cozy up in a flannel shirt
and gratefully make
Morelia hot cocoa.

When rains come unexpected,
plants lift and dance!
Families on benches in the Plaza
smile at the sky.

©Susa Silvermarie 2018

 

Chalchiuitlicue

Twenty-two ton sculpture of Chalchiuitlicue unearthed at Teotihuacan

The Pyramid of the Moon was built in Teotihuacán, the largest city in Mesoamerica with over 100,000 residents, to honor Chalchiutlicue the Rain Goddess . (Chal-chee-oot-lee’- qway) Her monolithic statue was found buried beneath the pyramid.  Chalchiuitlicue’s brother (or spouse) was Tlaloc, and  her son was the Moon God. She was associated with serpents, shells, and maize and was petitioned for the all-important agricultural and rain cycles.

In honor of the Rains coming last night a full month early, I honor this Goddess of water, rivers, seas, streams, storms, and childbirth.

From Wikipedia:
Chalchiutlicue was held to be the guardian of the children and new born…After cutting the umbilical cord, the midwife would wash the new baby with customary greeting to the goddess of the sea Chalchiutlicue. Four days after the birth, the child was given a second bath and a name.  After of the rising of the sun the midwife would place a bowl of water in the middle of the patio and hold the naked child with both hands, saying, “My child, take then this water, which will protect you life, in the name of the goddess Chalchiutlicue.” Then with her right hand she would sprinkle water at the head of the child and say, “Behold this element without whose assistance no mortal being can survive.” She also would sprinkle water on the breast of the baby saying, “Receive this celestial water that washes impurity from your heart.” Then she would go again to the head and say, “Receive this divine water, which must be drunk that all may live, that it may wash you and wash away all your misfortunes, this water which  in truth has power to oppose misfortune.” At the end, she would wash the entire body of the little baby, “In which part of you is unhappiness hidden? Or in which part are you hiding? Leave this child, today, she is born again in the healthful waters in which she has been bathed, as mandated, by the will of the god of the sea, Chalchiutlicue.

Chalchiuitlicue! Your story is an earlier version of our own Lake Chapala Goddess, Teo-Michi-Cihualli, portrayed in the stunning mural by Jesus Lopez Vega in the Ajijic Cultural Center. Goddess of Rain and all Waters, by all your names I honor you! I go this day to the shore of Lake Chapala, and humbly ask to receive the Baptism of your Blessing. Renew me, Rain Goddess, renew our thirsty earth.

 

 

 

Neill

When once the dust of Mexico has settled upon your heart, you cannot then find peace in any other land. Neill James, lesbian writer/adventurer/ philanthropist penned this in her 1944 travel book, Dust on My Heart. She was on a supposed six-month tour of Mexico, writing the fourth of her books in the “Petticoat Vagabond” series about her adventures in cultures around the world. Little did she know that she would spend the next fifty years in the small, mountain village of Ajijic until her death at the age of ninety-nine. Her residence on Lake Chapala, was donated to the Lake Chapala Society and became a hub serving Lakeside foreigners as well as the Mexican community for more than fifty years.

Here is the first paragraph of Neill James’ Dust on My Heart:

I am by instinct, a global vagabond. I cannot rest from travel. Glamour of the unknown has lured me thrice up and down and around the world. Alone, I have shared the home life of peoples in extremes of latitudes, longitudes and altitudes. I have tented on arctic snows beneath the Northern Lights with fur-clad Laplanders who follow the reindeer, have supped with gentle Fiji Islanders, and tattooed Maoris, and have breakfasted on seaweed in the grass huts of the Ainu. I have worshipped in a Malay Snake Temple at sea level and joined Buddhists at prayer on lofty Fujiyama. Restrictions imposed by a world at war (WWII) foreshortened my horizon, and guided my eager footsteps south to Mexico. 

She was much-maligned (a single woman, ah ha! and a writer! must be crazy, a prevaricator at the least! cantankerous! a provocateur!). She was a mystery woman, much-praised and most probably a US intelligence agent. Most of all, she was her own woman. A year ago, a blogpost of mine called Female and Fearless http://susasilvermarie.com/fearless-female-maud-paunceforte-mary-blair/ spoke of women writers before me here in Ajijic, and included my beginning glimpse of Neill James.

Since then, I have heard some first-hand stories of her ferocious way of life. I am glad to have a sense of her that sees past the sanitized and sainted version recalling only her splendid philanthropy. She was an inventive woman, belonging to herself, a person who was whole. And women becoming whole shift the planet’s paradigm.

 

Books by Neill James, 1885-1994:

Dust on My Heart:Petticoat Vagabond in Mexico
Petticoat Vagabond In Ainu Land
Petticoat Vagabonds Up and Down The World in Asia
White Reindeer
Atlantic Rendezvous
Penkerth, Journey’s End